The U of S Huskies wrestling squad is ready for another year of grappling.
The team did a lot of recruitment in the off-season and the talented rookies entering the program, combined with proven veteran athletes, should make the Huskies national contenders.
The Huskies boast 37 Canadian Interuniversity Sport eligible athletes this year, 17 of which are rookies.
Huskies head coach Todd Hinds is quick to point out that, in university wrestling, having a lot of first-year athletes on the team doesn’t necessarily make you the underdog.
“We’ve got several national champions coming in from the juvenile club level… and they’re going to make a huge impact on our team,” Hinds said.
Many of the rookies on the team competed in the club levels with the Jr. Huskies wrestling club. It’s one of the top developmental programs in Canada and is designed to help prepare cadet (15-16 years old) and juvenile (17-18 years old) athletes for a future in wrestling at the university level and beyond.
Malcolm Meekins and Andrew Johnson are both products of the Huskies affiliate club and are now in their first year on the university squad.
Meekins was a national champion earlier this year in the men’s juvenile 63-kg weight class. In 2011 he led the Holy Cross Crusaders men’s team to a city championship by winning the 62-kg division. Despite his last name, Meekins definitely won’t be meek in his rookie year.
Johnson also hails from the Jr. Huskies and won a bronze medal in the juvenile 76-kg men’s class in the 2012 national competition.
The Huskie rookies got their first taste of university wrestling in Calgary on Oct. 27 at the Dino Open, the first of seven meets the wrestlers use to prepare for the conference and national championship tournaments.
The Huskies had a good showing at the Dino Open, placing athletes in the top five of several weight classes. Coach Hinds was impressed with his team’s performance.
“I was so proud of the team,” Hinds said. “I can’t think of a better start to the year, the way our team gelled and worked together was phenomenal.”
The team isn’t all new faces. Three-time CIS gold medalist Ryan Myrfield is back for his final year of eligibility. He won the gold medal at the 68-kg weight class in his rookie year and in the last two years he has won back-to-back national titles in the 72-kg division. He is the men’s team captain and says, for himself, the goal remains the same: to win another gold medal.
Fellow fifth-year Landon Squires will also help lead the men’s side as co-captain. He won gold at the conference tournament and picked up a silver medal at nationals last season. Squires competes in the 90-kg division.
On the women’s side Natasha Kramble and Koren Pitkethly are the only two fifth-year athletes on the squad. The pair said, however, that they are used to the leadership role since they were also the two most veteran women on the squad last year.
“Natasha and I will make sure our team is strong and help each other out in all situations. Our team connects really well so it’s not too much extra work,” said Pitkethly, who won the silver medal at the CIS tournament the last two years in the 59-kg class. She says she is determined to wrestle in the same class to prove she can win gold.
“I’m done getting second so I am going to win this year,” said a determined Pitkethly.
The team will compete in the Huskie Open, their only home tournament, on Nov. 24 in the Education Playroom.
Photo: Josh Schaefer/Huskie Athletics